If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, then you most likely have gum disease. Whether this happens occasionally or every day, it is a sign that your gums are not healthy and it needs to be addressed. From middle age onwards, the main cause of tooth loss is gum disease, not tooth decay!
In its early stages, known as gingivitis, the gums start to become inflamed. This is a superficial condition and easily treated using simple methods. In the longer term, this can progress to periodontal gum disease. The word “periodontal “refers to the tissues and ligaments around your teeth, which hold them in place within the jaw. In other words, the bone, ligament and gum surrounding your teeth are similar to the foundations of your house.
In periodontal disease, infection and inflammation cause the tissues to pull away from the tooth and underlying bone. Having regular dental check-ups and professional scaling/polishing of your teeth helps to detect and treat the early signs of gingivitis and periodontal gum disease before they progress to cause permanent bone damage and eventually tooth loss.
Symptoms of gum disease
The symptoms of gum disease vary depending on the extent of the problem, but can include:
- Bleeding gums
- Red, sore and swollen gums
- Pain or discomfort when chewing
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums (your teeth might appear longer)
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together as they gradually move position
- Loosening of teeth
- And of course tooth loss
However it is important to remember that gum disease can evolve over a long period of time completely silently. Unless you have regular dental check-ups, you might be totally unaware of any problem with your gums.
If left untreated, bacteria from infected gums can pass into the blood circulation. Latest research suggests these bacteria may increase your risk of heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and even some forms of dementia. There is more and more evidence that as well as ensuring a healthy mouth and teeth, preventing gum disease may have long-term health benefits, too.
Gum disease causes
Periodontal gum disease is almost always the result of a sticky film of bacteria building up on the teeth. This is known as dental plaque. This eventually hardens to form tartar (calculus) which, unlike plaque, cannot be removed by brushing. Build up of plaque and calculus spreads below the gum line as affected teeth become increasingly difficult to clean. This is one reason why regular visits to a dental hygienist are so important to prevent periodontal disease. A dental hygienist uses specialist equipment to remove any build-up of tartar, and to clean the natural spaces between your teeth and gums.
Some factors are known to increase the risk of gum disease, such as:
- Poor tooth brushing and flossing habits – something which is easily improved with professional guidance from our periodontal dentist
- Having crooked teeth
- Having defective or leaking fillings or crowns
- Hormonal changes in women during pregnancy, or from using oral contraceptives or during fertility treatments
- Having a dry mouth: this can be caused by taking medications that reduce saliva flow, such as antihistamines, decongestants or diuretics to treat high blood pressure
- Some illnesses that reduce your immunity, such as AIDS
- Family history
If you think you could have periodontal gum disease, or are at increased risk of developing it, the periodontal specialist at the Dental Chambers Kensington can examine your mouth and suggest the best treatments or preventive steps.
Treating periodontal gum disease
Our dentist, Dr Lionel Friedmann, has a special interest and extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. He uses the latest techniques to carefully examine all the soft tissues of your mouth, and measure the depth of the natural pockets between your teeth and gums. If your gums are healthy, the depth of these pockets is usually between 1 millimetre and 3 millimetres. If you have deeper gum pockets, you are more likely to have significant periodontal gum disease. A panoramic X-ray (showing your upper and lower jaws) may be suggested to check whether the underlying bone is also affected. Along with a detailed examination, this allows Dr Friedmann to design your treatment plan best adapted to your needs and circumstances
Preventing periodontal gum disease at our dental clinic in London
Prevention is key when it comes to gum disease. It is easier, quicker and cheaper to keep your gums in great health than to restore them or replace teeth lost to periodontal disease!
- Brush your teeth twice a day – our dentists can recommend the correct techniques and fluoride toothpastes depending on your age
- Floss regularly, or use an interdental brush or to remove plaque from between your teeth
- Have regular routine dental check-ups every six months
- Have professional dental hygiene cleaning at least every six months
- If you smoke, do your utmost to stop.
- If you have a persistent dry mouth, our doctors can determine the cause and recommend any necessary medical treatment, or change of medication.
The Dental Chambers Kensington, London is at hand to provide specialist periodontal care. To find out how our private dentistry service can help you, please telephone 020 7244 4200 for a confidential chat.